Highway 29 BBQ Review (Bertram, TX)
Craving BBQ before the AFC Wildcard games today (Go Texans and Bengals!), Scott and I made a road trip out to HWY 29 BBQ, located (obviously) on HWY 29 in Bertram. It’s a nice 30 minute drive from Georgetown. The place is in what appears to be an older brick building with some interesting signs (What does “Play 42” mean?).
(Scott's comment: BBQ is a little like playing the lottery (900 Million when we headed out Saturday morning). If you're playing quick pick numbers, or throwing a dart at a map for a BBQ place, you're playing the odds and hoping luck isn't going to laugh in your face. Knowing this, we head out into the January Central Texas wind, and an air full of Mountain Cedar pollen.)
(Al's comment: Sun perfectly back-light's the building. Check! Scott stands very casually below the store sign, but looks off to the side in a contemplative mood. Check! Scott sports black jacket, jeans, black cap combo (ala the Edge from U2 or maybe a drug dealer). Check! Are sure you guys aren't making an album cover here?)
(Al's second comment: Coming soon from Columbia Records: Scott V in "BBQ Stories Revisited - Bootleg Edition.")
(Scott's Comment: Let's name it "Mountain Cedar Saturday.")
They appear to offer brisket, pork ribs, chicken, and regular or hot sausage as their normal selections, plus had pork loin as a selection today. Scott gets pork loin, a link of spicy sausage, lean brisket, and ribs. I get pork loin, ½ link each of original and hot sausage, brisket, and ribs. (Scott steals a bite of my original sausage and we swap a bite of brisket).
Pork Loin: The pork loin has a nice flavor with some pepper in the crust. There’s a light smoke flavor. It is tender and fairly moist. We both like it. Score: Scott and Tom – 8.0/10.
Original Sausage: There’s some garlic and pepper flavor in this. It’s juicy and tender and the casing has a nice snap. It’s a very nice mellow flavor. Scott and Tom – 8.0/10.
Spicy Sausage: They say that garlic and spices (not jalapeno) make up their hot sausage. The garlic certainly shows. It feels like an extreme version of their original sausage. Lots of garlic and some nice heat at the end. Even cut (Scott’s was cut before we realized it) it has a nice snap. Score: Scott and Tom – 8.5/10.
(Scott's take on Original Sausage and Spicy Sausage: If you're going to try both, suggestion is try the original first. Both are quite good. As I'd bought the spicy, and tried that first, I am curious to know how much of the garlic and spice were holding over as I tried the original. This may have been an instance of stomach engaged before mind did. We welcome your thoughts on this and see what you think.)
Brisket: The brisket looks nice with a good bark and nice color. We both get a very nice burnt end piece in ours. The lean is fairly tender and moist even by lean standards, and the moist definitely has some well-rendered fat in it. There’s a nice pepper flavor in it. The smoke flavor is nice in the moist, but I personally would like a little more to carry into the lean.
Score for Lean: Scott – 7.5/10, Tom – 7.0/10
Score for Moist: Scott and Tom: 8.0/10.
Pork Ribs: There’s a good crust here, and they are tender without being overcooked. However, the flavor is only skin deep. I have three ribs, and the flavor varies inversely with the size of each rib. My smallest one has the best flavor while my largest has very little flavor once I get past the crust. They aren’t bad, but it is uneven. Score: Tom – 6.0/10, Scott – 6.5/10.
(Scott's take on the Pork Ribs: My biggest constructive critique is the consistency in how the flavor penetrates. I got more flavor in other parts of the meat along the rib bone (and there was a good amount of meat on the bone), but flavor and seasoning penetration was a little scattered. Again, BBQ is an art, not a science.)
(There is some luck of the draw here as well. *checking Twitter on phone for Powerball jackpot updates*)
So there you have it. Bertram is a tiny little town (one stop light), but it does have at least one BBQ place with a big BBQ heart. It definitely keeps the small town feel, but puts together a pretty good spread.
Is it worth a visit: Yep.
Is it worth a trip: Again, yes. Excluding the ribs, everything was in the exceptional range, and even they were good. It’s worth checking out.
-Tom & Scott